Boarding School Diary

As if they thought we wouldn’t notice, as if because we were young
we didn’t have eyes. And yet those two were flagrant
and left their door wide open so that when we walked by
we could see the little pretty one who taught nothing
and was maybe stupid lying back on the bed in her half slip and bra
and the big blond history teacher with the beefy face
whom we all were afraid of, bending over her with arms wide,
hands spread on either side like a man in a movie.

Three nights a week the homely one chaperoned us to study hall
in the library and then led us back thorough the dark to the dorm
where with a smile and a finger on her lips she’d stop
and pick up a few pebbles and throw them lightly at the window;
and when we asked her why, she smiled wider, lips stretched
over her yellowed teeth, and said it was a game.
We noticed all right, we girls in our loneliness,
our friendships, our school books, and in our rooms we giggled over
the two grown women on the bed like that. It didn’t occur to us
to call them anything---we didn’t have a name.

I was more worried about breasts, mine hadn’t grown like the others---
was I going to be a girl all my life? And Elvis, whom I dreamed about,
that raspy voice whispering in my ear, his hands leaving the guitar
to touch me here and there. Once a week, on Sunday nights,
I waited for the phone call from the air force boy I’d kissed
in my parents’ living room until I couldn’t stand his cigarette breath.
I saw his face everywhere, watching me, wanting me.

No one was going to keep me here for long.
I managed my Saturday smokes in town,
and I had my grape juice fermenting on the closet shelf, and gin
hidden in the radio; and my diary disguised as a notebook
hidden in my desk drawer beneath the other notebooks
where the headmistress found it. What had she been looking for
to scour so deeply into the little worn dorm-room desk?
Although she barely knew my name, she was pleased
to tell me that she’d burned it, given it to the yard man
to throw in with the leaves. Dead leaves in spring.
© 2010 Nellie Hill. All rights reserved
return to list of poems